Close the deal: conference secrets from the experts

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Close the deal: conference secrets from the experts

Last week, PolicyGenius was lucky enough to attend FinCon – formerly the Financial Blogger Conference, and the place to be if you’re a part of the online financial community. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to network, see what others are doing, and have a little fun along the way. It was a memorable weekend in Charlotte, NC, and we got some face time with some of our favorite financial experts.

A lot goes on at FinCon every year. Whether you’re manning a booth, going to see the keynote speakers, attending the Startup Competition, or heading over for some storytelling tips at Ignite, FinCon is It’s an important few days, and that got us thinking: what do attendees do to get ready for FinCon?

We picked the brains of a few of our favorite experts and fellow FinCon participants and asked them for their best tips when getting ready for a conference.

Peter Anderson - Bible Money Matters

Peter Anderson of Bible Money Matters stressed the importance of being prepared and being able to tell people just what it is you do; Anderson, for example, focuses his content around finances, faith, and family. When a conference is being attended by hundreds or thousands of people, and only lasts a couple of days, you don’t have time to be refining your pitch on the spot.

"Put together a media kit that shares a few tidbits about your site demographics, traffic, advertising rates and other important facts," he said.

Anderson’s other tip was to "be genuine. Be yourself, and don't worry about coming across as something you're not."

For a few more insights, take a look at this post from Anderson’s site, Bible Money Matters.

Shannon McLay - The Financial Gym

Like Peter Anderson, Shannon McLay from The Financial Gym talked about preparation – but in her case, she mentioned resting up beforehand in order to make the most out of the few days you have to network.

"A conference is a marathon, not a sprint, and those who have the most stamina maximize the most connections."

McLay also spoke to her post-conference habits. After all, there’s no point in going to an event if you don’t take advantage of the connections you made and you let it all fall to the wayside. Instead of getting sucked back into the daily grind once you return to the office, take a few days to reap the rewards of a conference and make sure your efforts weren’t wasted. "I specifically plan no meetings or anything formal on the two days following a conference," McLay said, "so I allow myself to recover and follow up on high priority opportunities right after the conference."

Ryan Guina - Cash Money Life

It’s important to go into a conference with a plan so you aren’t completely aimless once you get there, but it’s also important to realize that things change and you might have to make decisions on the fly. That’s why Cash Money Life’s Ryan Guina said to make a plan but stay flexible.

"Highlight the major sessions, keynotes, or meetings you MUST attend, and leave the rest of your time flexible for the ‘would like to’ attend, or even better, the ‘didn't know this was gonna happen, but how can I pass this up’ opportunities," he said. He also noted that you’ll stumble upon things you didn’t think you would, and that "some of the most meaningful experiences you will have are unscripted."

Guina also touched on the importance of networking at conferences. The easiest way? Be blunt about it. "When talking to someone, explain a little bit about yourself and ask them if there is someone you should meet based on your background, interests, or activities. Most people are helpful and love to make introductions."

If you ask every person you’re introduced to to introduce you to another person, pretty soon you’ll find yourself with a healthy collection of connections – the most valuable part of any conference, and not bad a bad way to stay productive over a few days.

Paula Pant - Afford Anything

Like Shannon McLay from The Financial Gym, Afford Anything’s Paula Pant told us that one of her top tips is being prepared mentally and physically.

"Get plenty of sleep before the conference, because you certainly won't sleep during the event. Stay hydrated and eat healthy in the weeks leading up to the event," because you’ll need a lot of energy to stay active and engaged over the next couple of days.

Pant also touched on Ryan Guina’s point of meeting new people, but suggested starting before the event begins by reaching out to attendees and speakers on Twitter.

"This will ‘warm’ that conversation," she advises, and will put you in a better position than approaching a person cold at the conference.

Jeff Rose - Good Financial Cents

Jeff Rose of Good Financial Cents gave us his number one tip, and this one also revolved around networking. If it seems like there’s a theme here, that’s because there is: for as much as you’ll learn about new products and services, and for as many talks you’ll sit through on industry trends, the most important takeaway from any conference is the people you’ll meet. They’re potential partners, advocates for your own business, and, if you’re lucky, future friends.

That’s why Rose suggests targeting influencers you want to meet at the conference. He’s even gone one step further and made his lists public.

"Last year I completed a list on AOL's Daily Finance which eventually opened the door to becoming a Forbes contributor." Using that connection, Rose posted this year’s list on Forbes, hoping to build relationships for the future.

Tiffany Aliche - The Budgetnista

Tiffany Aliche, The Budgetnista, knows that time is limited during a conference. That’s why she suggests staying on track. Part of that, as suggested by the other experts, is planning. "Before arriving, identify one main goal you'd like to accomplish. Doing so will keep you focused."

Aliche also has a unique tip: don’t network, "at least not in traditional sense." She doesn’t believe in what she calls the "business card trade," just trading contact information and business details. Instead, opt for a genuine connection through organic conversation, and then "extend that connection beyond the conference with social media, meet-ups and emails."

Eric Rosenberg - Personal Profitability

Our final expert, Eric Rosenberg from Personal Profitability, also jumped on the preparation bandwagon. "Conferences go by quickly, and it is easy to miss things you had planned, let alone things you had not," Rosenberg said.

Part of making the most out of every hour? Putting yourself out there. Conferences are a time to be seen and known by your peers, and volunteering to be in front of people is a great way to stick in people’s minds. "Even if you get a little stage fright, putting yourself on the stage in high profile events, or maybe even your own session, is the best way to quickly become a recognized authority that people will think of during the conference and for years to come."

If it seems like you read similar advice from a few different people, you’re not wrong. But that’s why each person here is an expert – they know exactly how to make connections, showcase their expertise, and make the most out of every opportunity to grow their business and their presence.

A big thanks to everyone who we met at FinCon ‘15, and to all of the experts who shared their insights with us here. We’re already looking forward to next year’s FinCon! See everyone in San Diego!

Image: torbakhopper